The U.S. House Rules Committee decided tonight against allowing a vote on Representative Steve King’s proposal to block the U.S. Treasury Department from using federal funds to redesign any currency. In April, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew announced plans to redesign the $20 bill, with a picture of Harriet Tubman on the front and an image of President Andrew Jackson on the back.
The innovation didn’t sit well with King. As Zach Carter first reported for the Huffington Post, King offered his amendment to the appropriations bill covering the Treasury Department. Matthew Nussbaum reported this evening for Politico,
“It’s not about Harriet Tubman, it’s about keeping the picture on the $20,” King said Tuesday evening, pulling a $20 bill from his pocket and pointing at President Andrew Jackson. “Y’know? Why would you want to change that? I am a conservative, I like to keep what we have.”
The conservative gadfly said it is “racist” and “sexist” to say a woman or person of color should be added to currency. “Here’s what’s really happening, this is liberal activism on the part of the president, that’s trying to identify people by categories and he’s divided us on the lines of groups. … This is a divisive proposal on the part of the president and mine’s unifying. It says just don’t change anything.”
Has anyone seen a better example of white male privilege lately? U.S. paper currency has featured white men on all denominations for generations. Yet it’s “racist” and “sexist” to put an African-American woman on one bill and several white women on another–even though both redesigned bills would retain images of white men on one side.
Sensitivity to racial injustice has never been King’s strong suit, so of course he would call it “unifying” to keep the seventh president’s place on the $20. Never mind Jackson’s legacy of brutal Indian removal policies, not to mention direct involvement in the slave trade and attempts to limit postal delivery of abolitionist materials. In case King forgot, the Republican Party grew out of the anti-slavery movement.
With Donald Trump damaging the GOP brand among non-white Americans, House leaders needed unflattering national news coverage and an eventual floor vote on King’s amendment like a hole in the head. So the Rules Committee determined the proposal to be out of order. King can go back to fighting “bloodthirsty vegan brigades” and other imagined threats to American civilization.
UPDATE: Added below fantastic comments by King’s Democratic challenger, Kim Weaver.
The Des Moines Register’s William Petroski quoted Kim Weaver in his report on the failed King amendment:
“Iowans have four representatives in the United States House of Representatives, and unfortunately one of them seems to maintain a laser focus on where his next headline-grabbing piece of stunt legislation will come from,” Weaver said. “What will this amendment do for residents of Iowa’s 4th District? Nothing. How will it make the lives of his constituents better? It won’t. And what chance does this meaningless and mean-spirited gesture have of actually passing? Just like most measures introduced by Steve King, none.” […]
Democratic candidate Weaver complained that King has been ignoring real challenges in Congress.
“Tuition costs are rising and graduating students are suffocating under oppressive student loan debt. Seniors are struggling to make ends meet and retire in dignity. Wages for working class Iowans continue to stagnate. And Steve King is waging a one-man war against putting the first African-American woman on U.S. currency. It really is time to send someone to Congress who will fight for Iowans and stay focused on results,” she said.
SECOND UPDATE: Representative Dave Loebsack, the only Democrat left in Iowa’s Congressional delegation, doesn’t put out many press releases. But on June 22 his office sent out this comment on King’s effort to keep Harriet Tubman off the $20: “Steve King, and his history of racist and sexist comments, is an embarrassment to Iowa.”
Also this morning, the Iowa Democratic Party released this comment from state party chair Andy McGuire:
“Rep. Steve King’s divisive rhetoric and political posturing is nothing new. Like most of his outrageous proposals, this amendment went nowhere, which is one of the reasons King has been named one of the least effective members of Congress.”
“For King, a Congressman who has based his entire career on hate speech and xenophobic policies, to accuse President Obama of dividing the country is the definition of hypocrisy. The truth is Rep. King is more interested in grabbing headlines than in improving the quality of life for Iowans in the 4th district.”
“Iowa Democrats stand firmly behind Kim Weaver, who unlike King, embodies the leadership and compassion that Iowans in the 4th district deserve.”
THIRD UPDATE: William Petroski’s follow-up piece for the Des Moines Register contains more Republican reaction to King’s effort.
“Hamilton deserved to stay on our currency as the first Secretary of the Treasury and the Founding Father who envisioned America as a commercial republic,” [Senator Chuck] Grassley said. “Jackson was an opponent of a national bank, unlike Hamilton, and so from that standpoint, it makes sense to give him a less prominent role on the currency, as he’s getting. You might say having Jackson on the $20 makes as much sense as having Chuck Grassley on a $40 Pentagon hammer.”
Brook Hougesen, a spokeswoman for U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, said Wednesday that Ernst hadn’t seen the proposed legislation in the Senate. “However, Senator Ernst believes Harriet Tubman exemplified strength, leadership and the courage to help others at all cost. It’s our understanding that Andrew Jackson will remain on the bill as well.” […]
U.S. Rep. David Young, R-Van Meter, who represents Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District of southwest Iowa, including Des Moines, said through a spokeswoman that he is a “big fan” of Harriet Tubman and her rightful place and recognition in American history.
“He would not be supportive of this amendment. He welcomes opportunities to honor the many contributions of great Americans from throughout our history. Harriet Tubman exemplifies freedom’s cause and is an excellent example of how a good heart and persistence can make real change for the good for all of humankind,” Young’s spokeswoman said. […]
Jeff Kaufmann, chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa, said through a spokesman that he has “no problem with a person of the strength and character of Harriet Tubman being on our currency.” Kaufmann’s remarks were only on behalf of himself and not the state party, the spokesman added. Kaufmann had no comment on Congressman King.